Strengthening livelihoods through development of water resources

Diverse natural resources are never an answer to all development woes. Breaking down restrictions, there is a realization that it is these natural resources that can be developed into stepping stones; unleashing the door to a more holistic development. Centering interventions around a single resource like water alone, while playing with dependent sectors like agriculture and livestock can initiate processes of development.

Located peripherally to Bharat Aluminum Corporation Ltd. (BALCO) Korba, are four tribal villages of Rogbahary, Jambahar, Chuihya and Dondru. An underrated resource in these villages, which has found favor among BALCO CSR team, has been the untapped potential of water. Envisaged for its role in improving livelihoods, development of water was prioritized through the conceptualization of ‘Jalgram Pariyojna’ – an initiative of BALCO with the active back support of NABARD. Merely developing water resources will not suffice; improved agricultural practices, livestock development and some non-farm farm based activities have therefore been interwoven into the project design, to improve achievement of broader project goals.

The major problem identified in the project settlement is the scarcity of water for irrigation. This in turn may be attributed to low agricultural production and to some extent lack of motivation/awareness to adopt different cropping patterns. Single cropping pattern is universal in the area. After the harvest of paddy they remain idle or engage in labour work.  Sometimes the yield of paddy or other Rabi crops is also low due to lack of timely irrigation or application of fertilizers. The farmers either apply improper chemical fertilizers or don’t apply anything at all depending upon his financial status. The application of organic compost is negligible.

We have focused on two conventional yet core interventions for storing surface runoff in these villages – check dams and farm ponds. Endeavoring to make use of the generous rainfall, the water stored in these structures will shield crops from fluctuations in productivity associated with delays in critical irrigation. While cultivation of a second crop is largely unheard of due to lack of water; stored water will give farmers the additional fortune of practicing a double crop.

Homestead gardens serve as valuable spaces for improving lifestyle patterns amongst resource poor farmers. With a preference and feasibility for potato cultivation emerging, we facilitated the distribution of agricultural inputs like amongst 40 odd farmers. With nominal sized lands dedicated to cultivation, successes in production exemplify small scale models that can be replicated. For first timers, however, production was mostly used for purposes of subsistence.